Project Participants: Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems

Project Start: April 2016

The Northrop Grumman Integrated Assembly Line (IAL) in Palmdale, California, is a highly automated final assembly line with many automated systems assisting in the production of the F-35 center fuselage. Systems such as the Inlet Duct Robotic Drilling (IDRD) system, automate production functions such as drilling, metrology, and assembly. The IAL automation is state-of-the-art and capable of identifying and documenting out-of-specification conditions, but the current quality process requires significant manual labor to review, address, and disposition of identified quality issues.

The Naval Shipbuilding and Advanced Manufacturing Center (NSAM) will be working with Northrop Grumman on efforts such as the Assembly Metadata Integration project to develop manufacturing technologies that will improve IAL quality processes. The primary focus of Assembly Metadata Integration is to design an integrated process to extract quality information from key automation such as the IDRD on the IAL and to automate and eliminate the tedious effort of dispositioning quality issues.

The integrated system will receive quality data across the IAL’s automated systems, classify it into actionable instructions, and route the appropriate response to downstream model-based manufacturing instructions. It is envisioned that the improved process will gradually reduce unnecessary oversight of non-critical quality non-conformances while providing enhanced visibility of critical quality issues to end users. The integrated process intends to reduce the number of man-hours required to address quality issues by automating as much as 46 percent of manual calculations associated with recurring manufacturing defects from IAL automated systems, such as the IDRD.

Once implemented, the system will improve downstream assembly processes, enhance first-time quality, and ensure efficient operation of the IAL, which is required for Northrop Grumman to continue meeting cost and schedule commitments.  With planned implementation in early 2018, Assembly Metadata Integration will have immediate benefits on meeting production rate and quality goals.